“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear...”
For many of us who grew up and were first introduced to television in the early 1950s, “The Lone Ranger” was our favorite series. At the beginning of each episode, a magnificent white stallion, Silver, would rear up with a masked man on his back—the Lone Ranger—and off they would ride, the Ranger shouting, “Hi-Yo, Silver!”— as music from Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” roared in the background. At the side of the Ranger rode his faithful Native American companion, Tonto, who fondly referred to the Ranger as “kemosabe” (faithful friend). Together, this daring duo of the Plains was off to fight the outlaws and bring law and order to the Old West.
Originally, the Lone Ranger was an ordinary Texas ranger on the hunt for an outlaw gang led by a reprehensible badman. When the gang ambushed the ranger and his five companions, including the ranger’s brother, they rode off thinking all the rangers were dead. But the Lone Ranger was still breathing, yet barely alive. Tonto found the Lone Ranger lying on the ground and nursed him for months. The only one left to grieve and carry on, the Lone Ranger slowly returned to health, but with a renewed purpose one can only derive from having suffered so and healed. Grief had changed his life and opened his heart. He would go on to fight for justice for those unable to fend for themselves.
The former Texas ranger who fought outlaws in the early West, along with Tonto, are enduring icons of an American culture that, sadly, has gone awry. The Lone Ranger conducted himself by a strict moral code. The writers and producers and the actors—Clayton Moore (the Lone Ranger) and Jay Silverheels (Tonto)—all took the position that the program should serve as a role model for children and that certain social values must consistently be represented.
Even though the Lone Ranger offered his aid to individuals or small groups facing powerful adversaries, the ultimate objective of each story was to suggest that the community—and the development of the West—was the ultimate beneficiary. The Lone Ranger never drank or smoked and the saloon scenes usually took place in cafes serving food instead of bars with gambling tables. Outlaws were never shown in enviable positions of wealth or power, and they were never successful or glamorous.
The Lone Ranger was never seen without his mask or some sort of disguise. He was not interested in popularity or in personal gain and believed that men should live by two golden rules: Treat others as you would have them treat you, and that to have a friend, you must be a friend.
The Lone Ranger was always prepared—physically, mentally, and morally—to stand up to injustice when necessary. He used perfect grammar and precise speech, devoid of slang and vulgarisms. And whenever he or Tonto were forced to use a gun, they never shot to kill; rather, they disarmed their opponents as painlessly and efficiently as possible.
Most importantly, the Lone Ranger believed in fighting for what is fair, and that sooner or later, we must all settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken. He recognized that all things change, but truth, and truth alone, lives on forever.
I long for that type of leader, again.